Monday, July 7, 2014

Friendship Across the Years with Jeanette O’Hagan

Please help me welcome my friend Jeanette today... 

Friendship Across the Years

I didn’t come easily to making friends. This verse in my poem ‘A Long Time Ago’ captures something of how I felt in the primary school playground.
It was
the closed games
and head shakes
acid that etched
corroding self-confidence
as yet again
I trembled “Can I play?”
Averted heads
closed looks
leaving me to wander
and circle
overtures of friendship
adrift in solitary pursuits
until at the end of the day
I could return to riotous play
and daring adventures with
my brothers.
Verse 4 A Long Time Ago by Jeanette O’Hagan 29 January 2014
Books were my friends. And, yes, as the years passed I did get better at making school friends as well but we moved often – over eight different schools. So every year or two I would have to start all over again.
I spent much of my school years finding friends between the pages of a book and in my own fertile imagination. Yet as I read Anne Shirley’s adventures and especially her enduring friendship with Dianna Barry, I felt a sense of discontent. 
“Mum, why can’t I find a special bosom friend like Anne?” I’d ask.
I can’t remember Mum’s answer but that question haunted me for a long time. And I began to believe that something was wrong with me. Later, I did make friends even if I only stayed a year or they were the ones to move (which also happened).
C S Lewis’ portrayal of Aslan and Patricia Saint John’s books Treasure in the Snow and A Tangled Wood Secret brought me closer to another friend – One who would always be with me. I would often chat to Him and His presence was comforting and almost physical at times. And the most liberating thing was that I didn’t have to earn His approval for Him to love and accept me. God’s friendship was freely given and always to be depended on. I think that realisation gave me the freedom to stop worrying (as much) about whether other people liked me or would accept me – and to begin thinking about loving them.
These days I have many friends, good friends I can talk to. I guess what I’ve learned is that:
  • If I want friends I need to be a friend. Not that everyone responds positively if I reach out to them. Some people are so suspicious and ornery that they don’t trust my friendly overtures. Or maybe they just don’t like me or have too much to cope with at the moment. That’s okay because others do respond. 
  • I need to sow time, effort and care into my friendships. Friendship is about give and take. So I have also had to learn how to receive as well as give which can be hard for a fiercely independent person like me.
  • You can have more than one best friend.
  • Taking offense is the death of friendships while understanding and forgiveness helps them flourish. I have a vivid imagination and when I’m feeling a bit fragile it can be easy for me to slip back into the ‘old tapes’ of my childhood – seeing rejection in certain actions or words. Yet more times than not, that is not what my friend meant.
  • Friendships go through seasons. Over the last couple of decades I’ve usually had a least one confidante – someone I can share freely with - but it hasn’t always been the same person as her and my circumstances have changed. There’s an ebb and flow with friends that’s part of the seasons of life.
  • Whatever happens, God is my friend – and not just mine for His love encompasses us all.
I’d like to finish with a poetic tribute to a lovely group of ladies whose friendship I value (and to my Mum, my sister, my husband and to my other best friends like Carol, Alison, Margie and Gail who have enriched my life across the years).
On Wednesdays
At Word
We women
To sip our teas and coffees
And natter
And natter
With our friends
While our children study
or play
Thus whiling

We debrief the week past
Our triumphs
And woes
From our children’s clever antics
the state of the nation
Global reclamation
Theological debates
The marvels of science
Or historical fates
To kitchen disasters
And latest craft craze
No topic verboten

So we are sorry (a little)
If we are too loud
Or agitated
Or take up to much space
But you see
This is our tradition
Since our children
were kinders
No matter that
They are now

Special rendition
A teaser of heaven
All sisters
At Word.

Jeanette O’Hagan c 24 January 2014

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.

You can connect with Jeanette on


Websites: OR

Twitter:  OR @JeanetteOHagan


Thanks so much for visiting today, Jeanette, and sharing your thoughts on Friendship. 

This post is part of a series on Friendship as we lead up to the release of the paperback version of the Spiralling books, Saturday 19th July. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your heart in that post Jenny. It must have been hard moving so many times through your schooling. My parents have lived in the same house for 55 years, so I had that stability growing up. But now that my parents are in their 80s, they're the only ones left from the old neighbourhood. It's great that the internet can bring people from a distance together these days, though it's never quite the same as being in the same room. Looking forward to seeing you at USQ Bookcase in a couple of weeks' time. Take care.

    1. Thanks Nola - yes, it was hard moving so many times, though it was also exciting and adventurous as well. I'm glad of the life lessons I've learnt alone the way. It is so much easier these days to keep in contact with people far away - one of the good things about the internet. Looking forward to USQ too :)

  2. Sometimes it is hard to get over that rejection. I constantly have to remind myself that I'm not responsible for other people's responses to things, only for my own.

    1. Thanks Lynne. Hmm yes, it is hard. I found reentering the schoolyard dynamics as a parent hard at times because it evoked those memories of the past. But if God is for me, who is against me? Knowing that He accepts me helps me realize that, as you say 'I'm not responsible for other people's responses to things, only for my own.'

  3. I love those reflections on friendship. Those poems really spoke to my heart. I was just such a lonely student at school, and often bullied through all the years, which I think did something to my courage and trust, making it very hard with the friends I did have.
    You are so right when you say that some people just don't want to respond to our gestures of friendship. I love how books revealed to you the nature of our ultimate Friend. Just another reason to value the treasure books are in our lives.

    1. Thanks Paula. I'm thrilled that the poems spoke to your heart (every poet's wish) - school can be such a minefield. And yes, some say fiction is mere escapism but sometimes escaping to another world makes you more fit for this one - or at least able to cope with it.

  4. Jenny, I loved your story about finding friends at school. Our very shy daughter went to 6 primary schools and for each one, I prayed for a special friend for her and it was amazing how God provided - sometimes 3 at once!


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